R. C. Sproul wrote: “Let’s assume that all men are guilty of sin in the sight of God. From the mass of humanity, God sovereignly decides to give mercy to some of them. What do the rest get? They get justice. The saved get mercy and the unsaved get justice. Nobody gets injustice” – Chosen by God
Justice is rendered by God in ALL respects, but as Sproul asserts it, this can be misunderstood. In the context of God’s choice/election, some make, perhaps unintentionally, God arbitrary in His decisions. They (otherwise known as Calvinists in theological perspectives) try to get around this by speaking of God’s sovereignty, that is, it is God’s sovereign will, His sovereign choice to save some and not others. What is in view with this perspective is this: God chooses who will be saved (apart from that person’s individual will) and who will be lost (in spite of a person’s desire to be saved). To a rational person, this makes God arbitrary, even a monster!
Some reply like this: God chose to save Noah and those in the ark, but decided to let the others drown (callously, without regard to their own desire to willingly submit to the preacher of righteousness and obey).
The word sovereign is defined: Supreme in power; possessing supreme dominion; as a sovereign ruler of the universe (Websters). It is true that God’s sovereignty gives mercy to some; this is in accordance with Hebrews 5:8-9 (“Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him”). It is in His power to do this; thus, His sovereignty is exercised. Justice is render to all (2 Corinthians 5:10: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad”), and in this justice, mercy is extended to those who choose to obey. There is nothing in the word “sovereign” that intimates the supreme power (sovereignty) of God taking away volition from His creation, those created in His own image.
Before us, therefore, I offer the following:
- Man has free will and can choose whether or not to obey the Lord’s express will. This is taught in Joshua 24:15, Matthew 11:28-30 and Acts 26:19 (just to name a few).
- It is God’s desire to save all. This is taught in 1 Timothy 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9.
- Thus, God has given all the choice whether to be saved or not. This is taught in Acts 2:40
Remarks in relation to Romans 9. The word “Israel” is the physical nation and the church (9:1-6). The children of Abraham are: 1) through promise (Isaac), 2) physical descent (Ishmael) (9:6-10). Thus far, the only reason for individual identification is to contrast physical descent with spiritual descent. The context of God’s election (choice) is this: a contrast between physical and spiritual descent. It was through Isaac and it was through Jacob that God chose to bring His Son into this world; it was not through Ishmael and neither was it through Esau. God’s choice of election was through whom He chose to fulfill His promise to Abraham – not a word about salvation (9:10-11). In Romans 9:12-18, Paul illustrates, via Scripture, God’s choice in this process. 1) God spoke about what would happen (from the perspective of Rebekah) in Genesis 25. The older (Esau) would serve the younger (Jacob). In that which Scripture speaks concerning them, i.e., their individual lives, this did not happen. Three options: First, it never happened, and God was wrong. Second, it happened, but is not recorded. Third, application of the prophetic words did not apply to individuals, but to the two nations. For those who accept the Inspiration of Scripture, the first is ruled out. To accept the second option, a viable one, one needs evidence (for which there is none). That leaves the third option, and the context of Romans 9-11 bears this out.
God chose Jacob, and it was near 1,500 years later the words of Malachi records God’s choice in terms of love/hate. Certainly, Coffman had it right when he wrote, in his remarks on Malachi, “This choice between Jacob and Esau had nothing at all to do with individuals, but concerned whole nations of people. ‘The selection of Jacob was the selection of a people rather than an individual.’ … the eternal destiny of Jacob or Esau is not connected in any way with what is written here. This passage in Malachi was written centuries after Isaac’s twins were born; and it was the posterity of those brothers concerning which the prophet wrote” (Barnes, Calvin, Butler, Ellicott, Lange, Pulpit, all affirm similar).
CONTEXT: Paul speaks concerning a contrast between two peoples: spiritual Israel and physical Israel, with the former in good standing with God, the latter not. It was God’s choice to show mercy to those of spiritual Israel rather than physical Israel, and it was God’s choice to show mercy to one nation as compared to another nation. God showing mercy to one, not the other is based on God’s choice (9:15). In this context that Paul makes clear salvation is not in view, but God’s sovereign will in relation to nations is (cf. Dan. 4:17), thus Egypt was brought into the discussion in relation to the physical nation of Israel. Paul’s point in this is not exclusively “God’s prerogative to choose” (though this certainly applies), but to show that God chose to offer salvation to the Gentiles (non-Jews) as He did to the Jewish people (Romans 1:16-17; 9:25-26). Moreover, those who identify themselves with physical Israel, it’s only the remnant of those identified with physical Israel that will be saved (9:27-29).
Why will only a remnant be saved? Because, as Paul states, those of physical descent chose (elected) their own way of salvation, and not the Lord’s (9:30-10:3).